The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
How the Poppies Came.

A Fairy Tale from the German.
Volume 1, 1890, pg. 769

We are very much mistaken if we think flowers only bloom, scent the air, and die. It is our egotism that causes this widespread opinion, for we like to think that everything in Nature exists for us alone; and as we only see the outward beauty of a flower, we refuse to believe it has an inner life of its own. But we are wrong -- for as every flower has its characteristic quality, as one is proud and haughty, another modest and gentle, so each one has its own wishes, aspirations, joys, and sorrows.

One thing however, they have in common, a deep affection for the piece of earth on which they have grown; and so strong is this feeling, that if transplanted they seldom thrive.

They also have an organ of speech, and could we but understand their language, we might hear many a poem, and many a fairy tale whispered during a summer night, and the lovely pictures conjured up in the darkness might easily seem like passing dreams.

He who tells this story lay listening or dreaming one moonlit night on the mossy carpet under forest trees, when suddenly he heard a thousand tiny voices ringing all around him.

The reed was whispering a long poem in a melancholy strain, and her neighbor listened attentively. Close by, the little red flowers of the moss were shaking with laughter, and telling each other comic stories. The harebell said nothing, but she confirmed every remark by a slow movement of her head from side to side. Not so the trembling grasses, they contradicted everything that was said, shaking their heads continually.

The general conversation seemed to turn on the injustice of human beings, and the unkind way in which they treat the flowers.

Perhaps they had noticed the listener, and wished to punish him thus for his intrusion, or may be this is a favorite subject of discussion amongst flowers.

"Alas," cried a little group of thyme, "the clumsy foot of man has crushed our dearest sisters."

"Yes, they do not respect us at all," said a bramble, "however affectionately we cling to them! Nothing is harder to bear than their contempt for our feelings: they do not even think it worth their while to step aside as they pass us."

"Do not talk thus," whispered the forget-me-not." "According to you, man might be most unjust. But I can tell a different tale! Are we not their favorite decoration on festive occasions, and do they not chose us as messengers to their dearest, as interpreters of their deepest thoughts -- of love itself?"

"Those times are past long ago," cried the sorrel, decidedly. "Does not man, in his pride, think himself justified in meddling even with the work of the Creator? Does he not manufacture miserable painted paper flowers, and imagine his is improving on us? He only sends us as messengers when he has nothing better to offer, and the language of flowers is out of fashion long ago -- it is called 'sentimentality,' and ridiculed!"

"Not even when we show our feelings will they respect them," sighed the lily. "Only consider, when night has past, and we look round in the norming light, some of our comrades are always missing; then we mourn for them, and tears are in our eyes. Man sees them; but, without trying to understand, he denies that they are signs of sorrow, and says they are dew drops shed upon us by the morning mists!" This proof of the injustice of humanity was so striking that none dared contradict it. Not far off a little group of flowers had gathered round a tall, bright poppy. I had noticed that they whispered to each other, and did not take part in the discussion which flattered me so little.

As soon as the dispute seemed ended, the cowslip cried aloud, "Hush, hush, my sisters, the poppy will tell us a story."

"The poppy will tell us a story," ran the whisper from flower to flower, and they all listened attentively, for even the reed had at last finished her melancholy recitation. The poppy rose on her long stalk, looked around, and swayed backwards and forwards several times. Then she began: "Will you listen to me? Very well, then, I will tell you the story of my origin, which has been handed down to me from generation to generation. You must not imagine that all the flowers appeared at once when the earth was created. Oh, no; we came one after the other, and it was very nearly the same then as it is in the spring now."

"What is it like in the spring?" asked the honeysuckle.

"The daisy can tell you that another time," answered the poppy, "but now do not interrupt my story. As I said, we flowers came one after the other. But at the time of my legend most of them had arrived, and the world was very beautiful, for joy and peace reigned everywhere. One being, the only one in the whole round of creation, did not share this universals happiness, and wandered, sorrowing, over the face of the earth. Her name was Night. Why was she sad? you will ask. Ah, because she was alone in the world, whilst every other creature had a companion; and worst of all, she was the only being that was not beloved. For even if she lighted her glimmering lamps, she hid the beauties of the earth from man and beast, and that was why they turned away from her; not that they showed her their dislike, but she felt it in the rapturous joy with which they greeted the morning light. She hid her face in her thickest veil, and wept over her sore distress. Touched by her grief, the flowers tried to soothe her pain; but they had nothing to give except color and scent, and Night never cared much for color. So they saved their sweetest perfumes for her, and offered her all they had. But even their sympathy could not comfort her, and in her bitter sorrow she threw herself at the feet of the Creator. 'Maker of all,' she began, 'Thou seest how happy They creatures are; I only am lonely, joyless, and loveless, and have none to whom I can tell my sorrow. Day flies from me, however longingly I follow him, and every creature turns from me. Therefore, oh Maker, have compassion on me, and give me a companion.' And the Maker had mercy upon her, heard her prayer, and created Sleep. Night folded him in her arms, and her life was changed from that day. She felt lonely no more, and the hearts of all turned towards her, since she was accompanied by Sleep, the darling of every living soul."

Soon they were followed by airy beings, Dreams, the children of Night and Sleep. They wandered over the earth with their parents, and made friends with human beings,who at that time were still childlike in spirit. Soon, however, passions awoke in the human heart, and darker and darker grew the soul of man.

One beautiful summer night a man was lying on the mossy grass of the forest. Sleep and his children tried to approach him; but Sin prevented them, for in his soul the thought of a terrible crime had arisen. In vain Sleep shook wondrous drops out of his magic want; in vain Dreams flitted around him; again and again he resisted their power. Then Sleep called his children. "Let us fly," he said, "this man is not worthy of our gifts:" and they fled.

When they were far away Sleep took his magic want and, half in anger that this time its power had failed, he thrust it in the earth, and his children decked it with all the flitting, joyful visions intended for the man they had left. Night saw them, and she breathed life into the wand, that it might take root in the earth. It grew, and still concealed the drops that bring sweet slumbers; the gifts of the Dreams were turned into delicate, glowing petals, and the first poppy grew and bloomed."

The story was ended. Morning dawned. And as the sunlight broke through the trees, the scattered petals of a rose fluttered through the forest, sadly whispering a last farewell. And tears hung on every flower.

Typed by Deborah, Apr 2017